Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 42 (2), 2016
Taking four countries—Britain, the Netherlands, France and Germany—with distinct state approaches and public debates over accommodating Muslims, we study the views of ordinary people from the majority and Muslim populations on Muslim group rights. We compare their responses to questions on mosque-building, teachers wearing religious symbols, and religious classes in schools, to determine whether there is a significant ‘gap’ between the majority and Muslim minorities. We find highly significant ‘gaps’ between the majorities and Muslims over Muslim group rights in all countries, with the majorities less supportive. Importantly, it is a shift by the majority population against Muslim group rights that produces this ‘gap’ as the question moves from provision for Christians to Muslims, while Muslims hold similar views over rights for Christians and their own religion. In Britain and Germany, the two countries where church/state relations privilege Christianity over other religions, majorities especially support Christian over Muslim group rights. The British findings are remarkable, because a country which substantially grants and has the most supportive public debate for Muslim group rights, produces the largest ‘gaps’ between its majority and Muslims. We think this is due to political context, where in contrast to the Netherlands, there is no outlet for political opposition to Muslim group rights.
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